AGENCY PITCH HEATS UP: CAMP INTERACTIVE SHOW MODEM-POPPE AND THINK DUKE IT OUT FOR $1 MIL MOCK ONLINE ACCOUNT

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The agencies pitching for a hypothetical $1 million account at Camp Interactive last week understood that even though the billings weren't real, the exposure was -- and could have a big payoff.

That's why executives from Modem Media-Poppe Tyson and Think New Ideas spent weeks creating interactive marketing proposals for Energize Drinks Co., a fictitious client seeking an agency to launch an online campaign for its TrailAde sports drink.

The agency proposal event, presented before 300-plus executives at Camp Interactive in Beaver Creek, Colo., provided an inside look at the online pitching process. Camp Interactive was produced by Interactive Marketing and sponsored by Advertising Age, Business Marketing, Intel Corp., AltaVista and other Internet companies. (A Webcast of the online pitches, and other coverage, will be available at adage.com starting Aug. 13.)

The interactive marketing proposal session pitted Modem Media-Poppe Tyson, Westport, Conn., against Think New Ideas, New York. Creative and media planning executives from both agencies participated in the pitch, while Michael Wege, associate director of global advertising for Procter & Gamble Co., and Angela Kapp, VP-special markets and new media for Estee Lauder, represented the client.

MODEM-POPPE WINS ACCOUNT

Each agency was given a request for a proposal about one month prior to the event, and dedicated almost as much time to the project as it would to an actual pitch, executives at both agencies said.

For the newly merged Modem Media-Poppe Tyson, which won the account, the event gave it a chance not only to showcase its abilities, but to integrate the different cultures of Modem Media, which is known for its online media planning work, and Poppe-Tyson, which has been recognized for its creative talent.

"It's important to make a statement that Poppe and Modem are working together," said Jocelyn Griffing, associate media director at Modem Media-Poppe Tyson.

In its pitch for the TrailAde account, Modem created a full-blown online campaign that included banner advertising as well as a wide range of sponsorships and partnerships to promote the brand, targeted at extreme-sports fanatics.

Some of the proposed alliances included partnerships with community Tripod; organizations such as Outward Bound; a sponsored area on MapQuest; and a co-partnership with Expedia to provide travel information.

THINKING OUTSIDE THE BOX

It also proposed creating an event called "TrailAde Triathalon" that would be aimed at the "desktop athlete." With a theme of "Find, get, go," the event would require users to actually go to a store, buy the beverage and enter the identification number into an online form in order to register for an online sweepstakes. Having the ID number of the product would be one way to track results of the campaign, as well as gather user information, the agency said.

Modem-Poppe priced out the entire media plan, said Ms. Griffing, and did actual research on the target audience using data from @plan as well as from its own research department.

"The process was just as important as the outcome," she said. "It provided real team-building."

Think New Ideas, meanwhile, lived up to its name by proposing that Energize change the name of its product from TrailAde to Gris, (pronounced grease), after conducting research with actual focus groups and consumer studies.

Gris would resonate better with the ultracool target audience in a market already dominated by competitors Gatorade and Powerade, Think New Ideas said.

"On the face it appears radical, but we take our responsibility as a partner with a client very seriously," said Susan Goodman, exec VP-marketing and strategic planning for Think New Ideas, New York, referring to the name change.

She said that after conducting research, "We found the name [TrailAde] was a big loser. We think it's irresponsible if we feel a client is moving in a direction that is not in their best interest," said Ms. Goodman.

MICROSITE WITH SPONSOR TIE-INS

Another key finding of its research was that the target user does not want to be marketed to. So, with the idea that, "If you don't build it, they will come," Think proposed building a Griscup.com microsite around a premiere snowboarding event that would include tie-ins with sponsors. It also advised against doing much in the way of e-mail marketing or other overt targeted advertising at the risk of offending the audience.

Marketing executives said the event provided a fairly accurate portrayal of how the agency selection process works and was a helpful exercise.

"Anything we can do to get all sides of the equation involved is good," said David Dowling, president of Media.com, the interactive sister agency of Grey Advertising, New York. And almost everyone agreed that while Think's proposal was risky, it demonstrated guts and showed the agency really took the time to understand the audience the client was trying to reach.

"It's everything you want an agency to be -- nervy, creative and smart -- and that's what I need," said Mallory Kates, VP-marketing at child development site BrainPlay.com, which approached Think immediately after the session to discuss hiring it for a new campaign.

CASE STUDIES OF ONLINE ADS

In other Camp Interactive sessions, marketers presented case studies of real online campaigns, technology sponsors showcased their newest solutions and speakers talked about a future of multiple interactive devices in the home. However, not all attendees were completely sold.

`LIKE KIDS IN A TOY SHOP'

"It's like kids in a toy shop," said Jim Hood, CEO of Lord Group, a New York advertising agency whose clients include Bell Atlantic Corp. and Kraft Foods.

"A lot of this is created by R&D, when it really needs to start with the client or consumer," Mr. Hood said. "It's mostly insiders talking to insiders."

But that seems to be changing, as witnessed by the involvement of more traditional marketers such as P&G, which sent a contingent of executives to this year's conference. Pete Blackshaw, manager of interactive marketing at P&G, which is holding its own Internet summit Aug. 20-21 in Cincinnati, said the company is eager to discuss the key issues facing the Internet industry, and the camp provided a good way to get the discussion going.

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